Having an income does not necessarily lead to financial independence for women. It is not unusual to see the males of the family – be it father or a husband – take charge of making financial decisions, even for the money earned by women. However, it is astounding to know that fewer women are taking decisions regarding their own income now, than fifteen years ago, and a growing number of them are doing so jointly with their spouses, according to National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
At the same time, according to statistics collected by the survey, one in every six married women with an income reported having no choice in how their earnings are utilised, a figure that has remained consistent for the past decade and a half. In such situations, the men continue to make the decisions.
The decline in the proportion of women deciding independently on how to use their earnings was seen when in a parallel move hordes of women withdrew from the workforce.
According to the national report of the most recent round of the NFHS, or the fifth round conducted between 2019 and 2021, just approximately 18 percent of married women with an income were making independent decisions about how to spend their money. In the third round of the survey, which took place in 2005-06, that percentage was 24 percent. Over the same time period, the number of women who claimed these decisions were decided jointly with their husbands increased by ten percentage points to 67 percent.
In the 2005-06 round of the study, married women aged 15 to 49 years old were projected to be employed at 43%. During the fifth round, that proportion had dropped to 32%, which was slightly better than the 31% reported in 2015-16.
The proportion of married women who choose how their wages are spent has decreased in both urban and rural India, as well as among people with various levels of education. Only the wealthiest women defied the trend, with the percentage of such women making their own purchasing decisions falling somewhat.
Decision on Earning of the Men
In comparison to 15 years ago, a bigger number of women claimed that choices were made jointly when it came to how men’s wages were used. Compared to 62 percent of women indicating that these decisions were made jointly in 2005-06, that percentage has risen to 71 percent. In addition, the percentage of women who say their spouses made the decision for them has decreased slightly, from 25% in 2005-06 to 21% in 2019-21. Only about 6% of married women feel they have control over how their husbands’ wages are spent.
There was no difference between the two rounds of the study when the men were asked the identical issue – who decided how their incomes were spent. The percentage of people who claimed choices were made collaboratively remained nearly unchanged at 66 percent. In both rounds, the percentage of males who stated they alone decided how their money was spent was around 28%, which was greater than the percentage of women who said they did. This suggests that many men were either unwilling to admit that shared decisions were made or that women were encouraged to believe they had a voice in how their husband’s income was spent. The percentage of males who indicated their spouses decided how their income was spent independently increased from 2% to 6%.
Decisions on Shopping
When big household purchases were made, the most significant change in women’s participation in decision-making was observed. Men were making less decisions for themselves. As a result, the proportion of homes where the husband and wife made the choice together increased from 44% in 2005-06 to 72% in 2019-21. From 32 percent in 2005-06, the proportion of males who made the decision on their own has decreased by half.
Men were also polled on their feelings about their wives’ involvement in decision-making. In 15 years, the percentage of men who believed that wives should decide how they spent their wages declined from 20% to around 18%, while the percentage of men who believed that the husband should decide increased by two percentage points. The vast majority of the males desired shared decision-making.